Doctors Working in the NHS must now Prove that they are Fluent in English to Treat their British Patients

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 21st, 2012

Week in Review

They speak English in America.  Canada is bilingual.  They speak English and French.  They speak English in the United Kingdom.  They speak French in France.  German in Germany.  Japanese in Japan.  And English in Australia.  Planes fly between all of these countries.  Flight crews are in constant communications with air traffic controllers during these flights.  At departing airports.  With en route controllers.  And at their destination airports.  Communication is important.  Because there are a lot of airplanes in the air.  And it’s the direction giving from these air traffic controllers that keep these planes from flying into each other.  So this communication is very important.  And it’s because of this there is a universal language for international flights.  English.  But not just any English.  The official language spoken by these flight crews is American English.  Because it’s the most common form of English spoken.  And therefore the most easily understood.

International flying, though, is not the only place communication is important.  It’s also good practice to make sure doctors speak the language their patients speak.  To prevent any accidents from arising due to a misunderstanding (see Consultation over language tests for foreign doctors posted 4/18/2012 on BBC News UK).

Doctors wanting to work for the NHS will have to prove they are fluent in English if proposals go ahead…

The move comes after the case of Daniel Ubani, a German locum doctor who gave a 70-year-old patient a fatal painkiller overdose on his first and only shift in Britain in February 2008…

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: “This is a vital issue for patients – they must be able to have confidence that the doctor who treats them has the communication skills needed for the job.”

Yes, communication is important.  Which is why an official language is important in a country.  So people can understand each other.  Read road signs while driving.  To understand what you’re eating in case you have a food allergy.  To explain to a doctor what household chemical your child swallowed that is making him sick.  There are times when there is no time for a translator.  And it’s not cultural insensitivity.  Someone shouldn’t expect a doctor to be bilingual at home.  Just as we shouldn’t expect people in other countries to be bilingual there for our cultural sensitivity.  If you live in a country you should just learn their language.

Canada is interesting in this respect.  The province of Quebec has forced a bilingual language standard on the rest of Canada.  So in most parts of Canada signs are in both French and English.  But not in Quebec City.  The capital of New France.  Where their provincial motto is “Je Me Souviens.”  Which means ‘I remember’.  That I’m French.  For in Quebec City the signs are only in one language.  French.  (At least the last time I was there.)  So the larger part of Canada has accommodated the smaller province of Quebec.  But Quebec shows no cultural sensitivity to the larger part of Canada.  Interesting.  Which is always fun to discuss with my Canadian friends.  Both in Quebec.  And in the larger part of Canada.

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